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Should SNAP Include Fast Food?
Photo by LeoAlmighty from Flickr
In mid-August, the USDA rejected a proposal from Mayor Michael Bloomberg to restrict New York City’s SNAP participants from purchasing soda and sugary drinks with food stamps. Bloomberg’s proposal stems from his city-wide effort, with Dr. Thomas A. Farley, the city’s health commissioner, to reduce obesity among SNAP participants in New York—many of whom have families with dangerously overweight children.
Today, the New York Times hosted a debate between four people on whether or not food stamps should be expanded to allow participants to purchase fast food. While health and nutrition experts have deplored this proposal in light of high obesity rates among low-income people, some anti-hunger advocates say that by relaxing the restrictions around food stamps, more participants would have access to food that is difficult to come by because of a lack of access, mobility, and time--a common problem for SNAP participants in low-income neighborhoods that have been deemed "food deserts." Many elderly people on food stamps, for example, could benefit from being able to use their food stamps at a local fast food restaurant on occasion. Read the full debate here.
What do you think? Should food stamps restrictions be lifted or more strongly enforced? Weigh in on the comments section below.
This entire debate could be rendered null, of course, if SNAP suffers drastic cuts during the federal budget process. And that is the more important and urgent conversation. As Amelia Kegan, senior policy analyst for Bread for the world, said in this interivew, SNAP is an incredibly successful program with a very small margin of error. Don’t let this debate blind you to the fact that SNAP participants are families with parents doing their best to feed their children, and people suffering from unemployment and a painfully long post-recession lull. For many, SNAP is keeping them afloat during a difficult economy.
Regardless of which side we land on the above debate, we can all agree that Congress must not balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable members of our society.
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